On November 2,2011 the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had its offices fire-bombed. Today gunmen attacked the offices of Charle Hebdo killing 12 people. The motivation for these attacks remains unclear.
One might suspect these attacks might have something to do with the magazine’s history of making fun of Islam, but Islam is the Religion of Peace and surely no Muslim were resort to violence to avenge an insult to his faith.
All kidding aside, here is the story from Sky News.
Three masked gunmen stormed the offices of the controversial publication, which has previously been attacked for its portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed.
They were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade during the attack on Wednesday morning.
French President Francois Hollande has declared a national day of mourning tomorrow.
The attackers are said to have called out their victims by name before shooting them. In one video clip, one of them is heard to shout: “We have avenged the prophet.”
They were let into the building by a female employee who was threatened along with her daughter and forced to punch a security code into a keypad to allow them inside.
The editor and a cartoonist for the newspaper, who went by the pen names Charb and Cabu, were among those killed.
Radio France chief executive Mathieu Gilet announced on Twitter that a contributor, Bernard Maris, was another of the victims.
Two police officers were also among the dead, including one assigned as Charb’s bodyguard after death threats were made against him.
Another 11 people have also been injured, at least four seriously.
After the attack, the gunmen returned to their black Citroen getaway car and shouted: “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed, we have killed Charlie Hebdo.”
The vehicle was later abandoned and is being examined by forensics teams.
The response by world leaders seems to be encouraging.
President Hollande condemned the attack as “an act of barbarism”.
In a televised address, he said: “We have to respond according to the crime, first of all by finding the authors of this infamy and we have to ensure that they are arrested, judged and… punished very severely.
“Everything will be done in order to apprehend them.
“We must also protect all public buildings… security forces will be deployed everywhere where there could be a threat.
“Our best weapon is our unity, the unity of all our citizens, nothing can divide us, nothing must separate us. Freedom will always be stronger than barbarism.”
Parisiens turned out at 7pm on the Place de la Republique in a show of support for the victims and of the right of free speech.
US President Barack Obama and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin both condemned the shootings.
David Cameron tweeted: “The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”
Unfortunately, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Francois Hollande don’t really mean what they are saying. If there is anyone in Europe still clear minded enough and with the intellectual integrity to make logical conclusions based on available evidence, he will have to conclude that Islam, as it is currently practiced, is simply not compatible with democratic values such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. And if such a person is brave enough to state such conclusions publicly, statesmen like Cameron and Hollande will be quick to attack him as a racist, a bigot , and an islamophobe. I expect that there will be statements on how this atrocity is in no way connected to Islam. The criminals involved are extremists and not at all like the majority of peaceful Muslims. This isn’t actually true, but it keeps them from having to face up to the real issues involved.
Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of Drancy mosque in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, said: “These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell. This is not freedom.
“This is not Islam and I hope the French will come out united at the end of this.”
I hate to say it, but Hassen Chalghoumi does not seem to hold views typical of most Muslims who live in France. If his Wikipedia article is
accurate, he is more tolerant and westernized than most French Muslims and has become rather controversial for his friendship with Jews and his opposition to Islamism. I am also afraid that he is not being completely honest about the traditions and doctrines of his faith regarding the life and deeds of Mohammed. Mr. Chalghoumi is likely sincere in his desire to reform Islam in a more peaceful direction but the controversy he is facing illustrate the difficulty of any reform is Islam.
The simple truth is that the gunmen were following Mohammed’s example. Mohammed did, in fact, sanction the murder of poets who ridiculed or opposed him. Stories about Muhammad’s life and sayings are an important source of Islamic law and doctrine, and many of these stories affirm his violent deeds. Since Mohammad is considered a perfect man whose example every Muslim should follow, this presents a problem. Mohammad cannot be simply dismissed as a man who lived in a violent time and place. His example and the Koran applies universally. In order for Islam to become a true religion of peace, Muslims are going to have to reject what seems to be an essential part of Muhammad’s and ignore those verses of the Koran which seem to promote violence against the unbelievers. I am not sure it is reasonable to expect that of them.
In the meantime, we must not let fear, whether of terrorist attack or of being considered politically incorrect, deter of criticizing or ridiculing Islam when criticism or ridicule is warranted. If we allow the terrorists and the bullies to l us what is acceptable to say or laugh at, we will be giving away the freedoms we have worked so long and hard for. Nobody likes having their faith laughed at. Most of us in the West have learned to respect the right of people to say things we don’t want to hear. If the Muslim population in the various European countries and here in America cannot learn to respect the freedoms of others, they are welcome to move back to their home countries where freedom is a distant dream.
- David Cameron and Ed Miliband condemn Charlie Hebdo attack – video (theguardian.com)
- David Cameron: Charlie Hebdo attack is ‘sickening’ (theweek.com)
- Britain will ‘never give up’ freedom of speech, David Cameron says after Charlie Hebdo attack (telegraph.co.uk) They pretty much already have, unfortunately.
- Charlie Hebdo gun attack: 12 confirmed dead, French President says it’s ‘act of extreme barbarity’ (christiantoday.com)
- At Least 12 Dead After Gunmen Storm French Satirical Paper; Country’s Security Alert System at Highest Level (ktla.com)